from kbytes to petabytes

In 1975 I took a job as a computer operator at Chi Corporation. Named Chi ( for the letter X ) because in its formulation they always called it “X” corporation and when it was time to pick a name they decided on the Greek word for X.

I heard once the computer cost over four million dollars. It had exactly 512K of memory. It had four drum printers the size of small swing sets and fourteen large tape drives, each the size of a refrigerator. The console had a big panel of lights that in the event of a crash had to be manually recorded to find the memory address of the error, and a dump tape had to be manually mounted to collect the crash data.

We would be watching the lights in their mesmerizing dance, printers drumming with the stacato ta-ta-ta-ta-ta the card readers shlupp-pa-pa-pa as researchers and companies loaded programs or data when suddenly the world would stop, a quiet so loud it hurt, and we would sprint to the console to find the dread red error light illuminated.

a Hollerith card  - they said the inventor was burried face down 9 edge first, just how the card was read.

a Hollerith card – they said the inventor was burried face down 9 edge first, just how the card was read.

One night I loaded forty boxes of cards for a company. There was no backspace on a punch card, holes cannot be erased.

The disk weighed two and one half tons called a Fastrand, it was a gigantic cylinder with fixed heads along the entire length. It provided and astounding 100 megabytes of storage at the cost of about $130,000.

Did you realize that your cell phone dwarfs the power of the original mainframe computers?

Will future computers have a soul? Hard to say, they will have the brain power, but if they are self aware who can know?

I used this page by John Walker for some of the details. It has the true first “virus” and the original story of it, a game called “animal

30 Comments on “from kbytes to petabytes”

  1. My first PC was an Apple 2. I think it had 64k of memory. We thought it was revolutionary because you could set up a primitive spread sheet and it would actually do calculations. Sure beat the heck out of that old ten key adding machine.I guess I’m dating myself.

    • billgncs says:

      computers are evolution – and it had a creator(s)

      I always liked C.S. Lewis’s description of life, what is the force that turns compounds into life. Can we see it, measure it, taste it? I don’t do it justice here, but some look at the world and see a miracle.

  2. I am aging myself, but when I went to college, I took a typewrite- electric. I was the woman! It had self correcting tape- I was the superwoman!

    Now I teach to students that have lap tops, smart phones, I-pads, notebooks, etc. They research at a digital library never leaving their bedroom, or sipping a cappuccino at an internet cafe. I traveled to four different college campuses to collect data for my thesis. They type out their research paper in minutes after it is spell and grammar checked. They email it to me and save a copy in case it gets lost. They say their life is hard, I say it is too easy. LOL

  3. that’s almost a scarey thought!

  4. mindfuldiary says:

    Interesting facts. It’s mindblowing what the computers can now. Took me back to the ninties when we had huge PC standing in our living room, we kids would get 30 min on it and it would take it like 10 min. to get connection with internet…..with sound and all. 😀

    • billgncs says:

      when I was in high school, we used slide rules. Times change 🙂

      They believe Moore’s law will hold for another decade, that transistor capacity will double every 18 months.

      What will computing be for your children ?

  5. I remember the want ads offering jobs for key punchers. My mother was offered a100 shares of IBM shares for $100 in the 70’s. She was a single mother of four kids. So of course she didn’t take the risk. What they say about hind sight. I think we had more time before all the electronics that taint our everyday lives. Computers the double edge sword.

  6. I remembere when computers first came out, or rather when I first became aware of them and I was highly unimpressed the cost, the trouble they seemed to continually have and the little that they could do. The age of computers has, however, taught me that although beginnings are somewhat unimpressive at times, middles can be mind-blowing!

  7. bert0001 says:

    I remember when I went with my father to radio shack just to see the first TRS80 computer. Must have been between 75 and 80. It looked like a desktop PC, but memory … and storage did not. I think they came with 8kb RAM. Storage was a casette recorder. Like the one used in the Sony walkman.

  8. I remember these things. Amazing the progressions..
    as is portable TV’s, radio’s, gps and so much m ore.

  9. Clanmother says:

    I often think of our dear J.R.R. Tolkien’s view on technology and how he believed that machines would destroy nature. (Yet, I do like my computer) You are right. We live in interesting times.

  10. Eric Alagan says:

    Amazing how far computers have come.

    • billgncs says:

      yes, it really is.

      I think hand helds are actually changing the brains of the young people who use them excessively.

      How does it go, I guess we live in interesting times.

  11. emjayzed says:

    Wow! I learned a lot ! Amazing to think of the leaps in technology. I like to think its a good thing, technology is why I know you 🙂

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